Friday, June 23, 2006

FestivALL Notes And Stuff

Let me add my voice to the chorus of folks pimping FestivALL. To be honest, I skipped last year's FestivALL--other commitments and all--but this year I'm really getting into the diversity of entertainment and arts offerings around town. I'm planning on spending a big chunk of Saturday taking in the sights and sounds of the best of Charleston's arts community.

However, with so much cool stuff going on at the same time, some of the more interesting events seem to have gotten lost in the sauce, so to speak. So rather than blog about all the cool stuff that everyone else is covering, I thought I'd single out a couple of cool happenings that could use the spotlight.

I can't understand why this hasn't gotten more attention, but Saturday evening at 9PM at the Walker Theater in the Clay Center, Marshall University Theater is putting on a production of "Tomfoolery," a musical revue based on the work of satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer. Anyone who ever listened to Dr. Demento knows the work of Lehrer ("Poisoning Pigeons In The Park" is a favorite). Melanie has been itching to do this show for years, so I'm familiar with it. I think tickets are ten bucks, and it'll be well worth it. Lehrer's songs are both intelligent and funny, and this could be a good way to cap off a fun day. Competition is fierce Saturday night, so maybe Marshall University Theater could reprise their performance in the future.

I've written about the No Pants Players several times here in PopCult. West Virginia's only improv comedy troupe will be performing "street theater" at the Capitol Street Art Fair stage three times over the weekend: Saturday at 10 AM and 5 PM and Sunday at 2 PM. If you enjoy "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" you will love the No Pants Players.

Last night I got to take in the "preview" performance by Drew The Dramatic Fool, who will also be performing at the Capitol Street Fair Art Stage this weekend. He'll be there Saturday at 11 AM and 2 PM and Sunday at 11 AM. He'll also be hosting a clowning workshop Saturday at 4 PM at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater on Summers street. Drew put on a fantastic show of semi-pantomime comedy, and anyone who enjoys laughing out loud will want to catch one of his family-friendly performances this weekend. You can read more about the dramatic fool at the Gazz here. If you like Bill Irwin, you have to see Drew the Dramatic Fool. He's a world-class visual comedian.

At the Gazz preview party last night, something else happened. Our esteemed Gazz editor, Doug Imbrogno, who co-hosted the evening with Mountain Stage's Larry Groce, made an official announcement: Under the auspices of The Gazz.com, I will be reviving Radio Free Charleston as an internet video show! You may have noticed some of the "subtle as a cinderblock to the face" hints that I've been dropping lately. "Hmmm...."

I delivered the pilot yesterday, and hope to take RFC weekly by the end of July. We're going to feature local music, weird short films, comedy from The No Pants Players, and more, all in a tight little ten-or-fifteen minute package. As an added deterrent...er...bonus, you get to see my ugly mug hosting the show. I'll have more info on Monday, including details on how you can watch Radio Free Charleston, and maybe even a production diary with behind the scenes poop on how we filmed the pilot.

"Uh, we went over there and filmed some, and then they made us leave, so we had to go over there." You know, real meaty insider stuff. Check back here at PopCult Monday, but first go enjoy FestivALL.

Cool Toy Of The Week: GI Joe Convention Set

"Heroes Unite," the 2006 Hasbro International GI Joe Collectors' Convention happens next week in New Orleans. In honor of this cool gathering, our cool toy of the week is the special convention premium set that was created for the die-hard fans of GI Joe and the Adventure Team. This set features the 12" tall GI Joe, with his recognizable face sporting fuzzy hair and a beard. "Fight For Survival: Polar Bear Attack" comes with an Adventure Team "Land Adventurer" with a new super-articulated body design. Included in the set is everything you need to have a harrowing arctic adventure: a dog sled; a team of three dogs; snowshoes; supply crates; a flag; mountaineering equipment; and a huge, articulated polar bear. The Land Adventurer comes fully-outfitted with arctic gear, including a parka with interchangeable flag patches. The set also includes a mini-comic that tells the story behind the adventure.

This is the kind of item that can inspire a mighty case of toy lust. It's being produced in limited quantities, and will primarily be sold at the GI Joe convention from June 29 to July 2. I was lucky enough to lock in a non-attending package, so I'll get mine in the mail after the convention. I believe the deadline for ordering the non-attending convention package has passed. If there are any sets left after the show, you'll be able to order them here. The price is not for the faint of heart. GI Joe club members will pay $230, non-members $280, but if you're a passionate collector, it's not a bad deal. The level of detail is incredible, and the set was tailored to the adult collector. This is one of those annual indulgences that keep the hobby fun. I know that my office display table is going to be redone in an arctic theme.

Collectors of a later era, the folks who grew up with the smaller, 1980s, GI Joe, can get their hands on a set of fifteen figures in a great presentation box. You can read more about it here. Fans of the "Real American Hero" era get an additional treat if they show up--Sgt. Slaughter, legendary professional wrestler and one-time host of the GI Joe cartoon, will be at the show signing autographs and meeting the fans. If anyone happens to be headed to New Orleans next week, stop in at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, and maybe you'll get hooked on a great hobby. And tell 'em I said "Hi."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Song Of The Week: Wild River

On Monday, I told you about going to see Setting Sun at Capitol Roasters. Since then, there have been some changes! Setting Sun has decided to change their name to "The Sleeping Dons." They're still the same three great musicians, Sean Richardson, Jay Lukens, and Deron Sodaro, but now they've got a NEW AND IMPROVED NAME!

And they were also nice enough to give me this week's Song. "Wild River" was recorded just last Saturday, at Capitol Roasters on Summers Street. This is just a taste of how great these guys sound. The Sleeping Dons will be at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday night in July, so go check them out.

Photo Essay: Goodnight Moon

We wrap up our photographic safari to The Purple Moon with four last shots that show some of the cool glassware and other sundry knick-knacks available at the only retro lifestyle store in West Virginia.


Upon entering the store, you're greeted by a ceramic sampler of cruncy retro coolness with vases, creamers, butter dishes and more examples of post-war crafts.














This cozy little corner is packed with so much great stuff that I couldn't single out any of it. Click to enlarge and explore.












A working turntable--gotta love it! I think this item is already spoken for.

















Finally, we bid farewell to The Purple Moon with one of my favorite photos from my visit--a vintage Rat-pack-era bar set, complete with shot glasses, tumblers, and a Martini shaker.

Since The Purple Moon has so much cool-looking stuff, maybe I'll take the camera back up there in a few months and see what other cool items they've harvested from the recent past.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Photo Essay: More Purple

Day two of the Purple Moon photo essay focuses on cool toys, neat smaller items and some of the art that Purple Moon has available. See the first part of this photo essay here.

The Purple Moon has a wide variety of art, ranging from signed prints by Bauhaus masters to recent works by the late William Goebel. I'd show more of it, but flash photography does not work well with framed artwork.







Being a toy collector, my eye was immediately drawn to the nifty vintage robot (left) and the complete set of Marx Presidents, complete with box and book.









If you're looking for vintage kitschy costume jewelry, The Purple Moon is the mother lode. I can see several gems from the 50s, 60s and 70s in the above photo, all of them dripping with retro charm.


This neat little Asian piece screamed out for a solo photo. There are great little accent pieces like this all over the store.

Tomorrow we wrap up our photo essay with a look at some more neat glassware and other cool items.





Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Front Porch Photojournalism

There was a house fire in Dunbar tonight. I don't have any details, other than it was a house that I used to play in back in the 1970s. The accompanying photo was taken from my front porch. I just snapped a few pictures and rushed in here to post them, so that I could scoop TV 8. That's what they get for parking in front of my house when I have company coming. The fire appeared to be out by 9 PM. Seems to have started shortly after 8 PM. The Dunbar Fire Department does good work.

Photo Essay: The Purple Moon

Last week, The Purple Moon celebrated their first anniversary as West Virginia's only shop dedicated to vintage mid-century modern and contemporary design, furnishings, accessories, and art. Their store, tucked away at 716 Lee Street East, right in the heart of downtown Charleston is a treasure trove of atomic age delights. Chuck and Connie Hamsher have created a terrific space where Charlestonians can finally find all that cool retro stuff that we see on the Home & Garden channel when they do a post-modern weekend.

I was fortunate to run into Chuck last week when I had my digital camera with me and a few minutes to spare before meeting Melanie for lunch. So, I ducked into The Purple Moon and snapped a few shots to share with you guys. You can probably tell I love this place. I've always had a fondness for post-war design, and I've spent the last decade writing about vintage toys from that era. And so for the next three days, PopCult will present a few photos of the cooler things you'll find at The Purple Moon. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and their stock rotates constantly, so you might want to visit the store and take in all the coolness in person. Thanks to Chuck and Connie for letting me go wild with the camera. This weekend, The Purple Moon will be surrounded by FestivALL, so if you're in town for the entertainment, stop in and look around.

Today, we're going to focus
on some of the cool furniture and lamps that you can find at the store.





You gotta love sectional couches. This one's a beauty.











Eating at this table would be just like dining with the Jetsons.












The Purple Moon has a huge selection of great atomic-age lamps. This is just a tiny sample.









Very cool stuff, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.


Tomorrow, we'll look at some of the cool toys and artwork that The Purple Moon has in stock.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Cool Saturday Night

I found out late Friday Afternoon that Setting Sun would be doing a show at Capitol Roasters Saturday night, so I re-arranged my schedule to attend. Setting Sun is Sean Richardson, Jay Lukens, and Deron Sodaro, all old friends from around the Radio Free Charleston days, and it's been 15 years or more since I'd seen them. So, aside from the great music, this was like a reunion of sorts. I even got to see Johnny Rock and Jason Ashworth at the show, and hear about their upcoming musical project.

Sean was the lead singer
for Strawfyssh, who were favorites on the old radio show. Jay and Deron were in Mother Nang, and Deron has since been in too many bands to keep track of, most notably the Voodoo Katz. The music was incredible. Sean's voice has always impressed the hell out of me, and he's really matured as a performer over the last decade-and-a-half, with an amazing stage presence. Jay and Deron have always been rock-solid musicians, and they gelled perfectly with Sean Saturday night. Of course, Capitol Roasters is a great venue, too, being smoke-free and having a really cozy atmosphere.

The cool thing is that the guys tell me they'll be playing at the Vandalia Lounge every Wednesday night in July. I'll definitely try to make it to some of those shows. We may even have a song of the week from them coming up soon.

Makes me think that it might be cool to revive Radio Free Charleston, updated for the internet era, someday.

Hmmm.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can take a gander at Setting Sun at the Gatecrasher gazzphotoblog, as the band stopped in to make some music recently at the monthly open mic hosted by Ron Sowell at the Unity church in North Charleston, on the 2nd Friday of each month. See the pix right here.

Monday Morning Arts

In honor of FestivAll coming up later this week, PopCult kicks off your Monday with a double shot of my over-rated doodlings.

First up, we have a quickie called "The Maestro." This was done with mini-Sharpies on the back of an index card when I was supposed to be working on the script for a soon-to-be -revealed top secret project. After I scanned it, I tweaked the holy hell out of it, so that it's almost a negative of the original.



Next we have a digitally-assaulted photograph of the Huntington Bank building. I shot this while walking down Hale Street, and started playing with adjusting the brightness and contrast of isolated parts of the picture. Then I colorized it in my patented slapdash manner.

Click the images to enlarge.
You can see the original images here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cool Toy Of The Week: Today Is His Birthday!

Today, Sir Paul McCartney turns 64, and the mainstream media is awash with ironic headlines snarking about how the lyrics to "When I'm Sixty-Four" don't apply to Mr. Macca this year, in light of his highly-publicized tabloid fodder divorce.

Which is a shame, because by most accounts, Sir Paul is a nice guy, and he's written some of the best music in the world--music that will last long after the tabloid hacks are forgotten. To observe McCartney's birthday here in PopCult, we're making him the "Cool Toy Of the Week." You see, McCartney has been immortalized in plastic by the folks over at McFarlane Toys a few times in recent years, and these are some of the best action figures that McFarlane has put their name one.

Many years ago, McFarlane created a toy line based on The Beatles Yellow Submarine. There were two series of figures, one depicting the Fab Four as themselves in the animated classic, and the other showing them disguised as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. These were so well-received that McFarlane released them again in different packaging a few years later.

Those re-released figures sold so well that McFarlane Toys came up with a set of action figures based on the goofy, low-budget Beatles TV cartoon, from the heyday of Beatlemania. The sculptors at McFarlane managed to perfectly translate the 2-D designs for the cartoon into a workable three-dimensional object. These are cool toys, and quite collectible. And any birthday with toys involved, has to be good.

Happy Birthday, Paul!